I’m pretty hopeful – particularly after the early-signing of top free agent reliever Will Smith – that this offseason will be different than the last two. I need it to be. You need it to be. Everyone is sick of mere rumors by late-February and early-March.
But one way it’s already been the same is the relative silence of the GM Meetings. The collection of team leaders in early-November has never really come close to the excitement and action of the Winter Meetings – even at its best – but there did tend to be some more significant, concrete rumors to munch on.
Not this year. Not the last two years. Not for a while now.
- Rays GM Eric Neander recently commented that while the foundation of some potential moves was laid at the GM meetings, nothing really got off the ground for them: “I don’t think we have any notable takeaways so far. It feels like we will have opportunities to improve our club but the specifics aren’t yet in focus.” For what it’s worth, the Rays appear interested in re-signing catcher Travis d’Arnaud and possibly signing infielder Howie Kendrick. So with that, your theoretical (but thin) Cubs connection is the availability of catcher Willson Contreras on the trade market and the potentially overlapping free agent interest in Kendrick.
- The Cubs are pretty clearly involved in the free agency of Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama (multiple, unrelated reports have confirmed as much already), but they’re not going to be alone in that pursuit, as the Diamondbacks have already confirmed their own interest via GM Mike Hazen: “We think he’s a good player .… We’re in the outfield market, the center-field market, specifically. We’re in the entire market.”
- And the Blue Jays joined, as well:
#BlueJays do have interest in some Japanese players, including Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (power lefty bat) and Shogo Akiyama (high OBP CF) per Ross Atkins
Jays have done homework on both. So have other teams. Both considered big-league talents
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) November 12, 2019
- I think the Cubs adding Akiyama is a great idea, especially because he should come relatively cheap with some upside and the sort of complementary skillset that could fit in nicely even if he doesn’t hit his full potential. But I also stop far short of believing the 32-year-old (coming off a fractured toe) is any sort of no-brainer solution to the Cubs problems.
- Sure, Akiyama would push Jason Heyward back to right field, which is better for the overall outfield picture, but if Akiyama winds up closer to the basement of his offensive projections (fourth-outfield type) than the ceiling (everyday leadoff man), what are the Cubs left with? They’ll still be banking on Jason Heyward’s glove outweighing his offensive limitations in right field with a rotating circle of questions in center field … just like they have for the past four seasons. And that’s not to mention the fact that Akiyama is not expected to be some sort of gold-glove option center field, anyway.
- The way I see it, then – Akiyama or not – the Cubs will NEED at least one of (if not all) the following to happen: (1) Ian Happ steps up into a more consistent offensive player, (2) Jason Heyward platooned more than he’s ever been before, and/or (3) another outfield option with a little more offensive upside from outside the organization joins the roster. Gambling on Schwarber-Akiyama-Heyward as your everyday starting outfield just doesn’t feel like a winning combination.
- Jim Salisbury (NBC Sports Philadelphia) seems to believe Gerrit Cole’s free agent price tag could reach $300M in a long-term deal, which … nah. While I do think Cole will/could break David Price’s total dollar and Zack Greinke’s AAV records, I sincerely doubt it gets as high as $300M. I think something in the $250M range is more likely.
- The Yankees are going to be involved in the Gerrit Cole/Stephen Strasburg sweepstakes no matter what, but they’re not stopping there: “I will definitely talk to [Madison] Bumgarner’s agency,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told The San Francisco Chronicle at the GM meetings. “I haven’t. But I will …. Starting pitching is important, and he’s been one of the game’s better starting pitchers for a long time. So we’ll certainly have a conversation.” Cashman also lauded Bumgarner’s October experience as a selling point. Query whether his interest in Bumgarner is some sort of manufactured leverage against Cole/Strasburg, but, well … I doubt the Brewers, who appear interested in Bumgarner, are happy to hear it. The Braves are also an apparent destination for Bumgarner.
- Successful Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi is being posted this offseason, so that’s another starter/reliever available to big league teams. Although the 32-year-old was extremely successful this past year, with an excellent ERA and strikeout rate, his 90ish MPH fastball is going to make some big league teams question whether he’s a starter in MLB. To that end, if he isn’t able to negotiate a large contract in the next 30 days (off of which the posting price is determined in the current system), his NPB team might simply decide not to let him go.
- Everyone seems to know that the Red Sox are open for business this offseason, but they could be more open than we know (via the Boston Globe): “… there are plenty of teams looking for front-line starting, leaving multiple clubs convinced that the Red Sox could find trade markets for one or more of David Price, Chris Sale, and Nate Eovaldi.” I seriously doubt the Cubs would come anywhere near a trade for any of those high-contract players, but their availability could help in their pursuit of starters elsewhere. More options is good for a rotation-needy team like the 2020 Cubs.
- Also from that Globe article is the perception that the likelihood of a Mookie Betts trade might ultimately rely on his willingness to sign an extension (MLB.com speculates that the Red Sox farm system – a proxy for long-term competitiveness – might push him into a deal, too). More than anything, though, the takeaway is the Red Sox will be extremely creative in their first offseason under Chaim Bloom, who’s trying to steer the team under the CBT threshold.
- The Athletic’s Jim Bowden has three potential landing spots for Francisco Lindor – all speculative – which could help you begin to understand what a Kris Bryant return might look like (very loosely speaking).
- The Phillies are discussing a contract extension with catcher J.T. Realmuto, which could wind up in the $20M/year for 4 or 5 year range. That extension could be especially important for Cubs fans to follow, as it could provide a framework for a Contreras’ extension (or valuation). Realmuto was the 2019 NL Silver Slugger and Gold Glove catcher, so his deal would probably be an absolute ceiling for Contreras (whether it should be or not).
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.